A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN 27 but even beneath that layer the eye could still trace the line of trenches, the hillocks of wrecked machine-gun emplacements, the endless shell craters, large and small, stretching to the feet of the mutilated, beheaded or blasted trees at the forest edge. Dotted over this lacerated field were a number of tanks painted in the motley colours of pike's scales. They stood frozen to the snow, and all of them—particularly the one at the extreme end which must have been turned over on its side by a grenade, or a mine, so that the long barrel of its gun hung to the ground like an exposed tongue from the mouth—looked like the carcasses of strange monsters. And all over the field, on the parapets of the shallow trenches, near the tanks, and on the edge of the forest, lay the corpses of Soviet and German soldiers. There were so many that in some spots they lay piled up on top of each other; and they lay in the very same frozen postures in which death had struck them down in battle only a few months before, on the border-line of winter. All this told Alexei of the fierce and stubborn fighting that had raged here, told him that his comrades-in-arms had fought here, forgetting everything except that they had to check the enemy and not let him pass. At a little distance, near the edge of the forest, at the foot of a thick pine which had been decapitated by a shell, and from whose tall, mutilated trunk yellow, transparent resin was now oozing, lay the bodies of German soldiers with smashed-in skulls and mutilated faces. In the middle, lying across one of the enemy bodies, was the prostrate body of a huge, round-faced, big-headed lad without a greatcoat, in just a tunic with a torn collar; and next to him lay a rifle with a broken bayonet and a splintered, blood-stained butt. Further on, on the road leading to the forest, half-way out of a shell crater at the foot of a young, sand-covered fir-tree, lay the body of a dark-skinned Uzbek with an oval face that seemed to have been carved out of old ivory. Behind him, under the branches of the fir-tree, there was a neat stack of grenades; and the Uzbek himself held a grenade in his dead, upraised hand, as if, before throwing it, he had taken a glance at the sky and had remained petrified in that pose.